This YA fantasy book sweeps you away to a dark mystical landscape full of shifting sand, nightmare monsters, and fantastical tales. Add a gun-toting kick-butt heroine straight out of a wild-West movie, a handsome stranger with a mysterious past, and a band of brave but out-numbered rebels, and you have the makings of a book that I gobbled up in one sitting!
Amani lives in Dustwalk, a backward desert town on the edge of nowhere that exists solely to support the munitions factory of the Miraji sultan and his unwelcome allies and occupiers, the Gallan army. Amani’s fate is bleak–when she overhears her uncle talking about taking her as another one of his wives, she realizes she has to get out of Dustwalk or die trying. Her plan to win a shooting contest and skip town is complicated when her fate tangles with that of Jin, a handsome stranger wanted by the authorities, and on a whim she helps hide him. After they are discovered, Amani and Jin skip town on a mythical desert horse, just ahead of the Gallan soldiers.
Amani and Jin begin an adventure through the harsh desert landscape, harried on every side by the Gallan military, allies turned enemies, mythical desert predators like skinwalkers and nightmares, and sometimes, each other. As Amani heads towards a town where she hopes to begin a new life, she uncovers a plot that could put all of Miraji at risk and finds the most unlikely allies in a group of rebels working to overthrow the Sultan.
I loved this book! The writing was lush and lyrical, bringing to life the mystical scene of the Miraji desert, almost as if it was its own character in the book. Amani was a great heroine, tough but flawed, perhaps a little too willing to save her own skin at the expense of others. The attraction between Amani and Jin was smoldering, growing slowly throughout the book in a natural but satisfying way.
The plot was fast-paced and intriguing, keeping me engaged the whole way. There were some serious plot twists that I didn’t see coming, but which made sense in retrospect. I wish we would have had a little more time to explore the connection between Amani and her new allies in the last third of the book, but I really don’t have many complaints. I can tell that we will be getting to know these characters more in later books.
This book has it all. Magic, mystery, adventure, and romance, all set against a gorgeous backdrop of the mystical desert. Do yourself a favor and read it!